Heather Tucker, author of The Clay Girl, had an entire career as a nurse, teacher, bereavement counselor, and professional writer, before she discovered that “playing with words is more fun than working with them.” What is it like to publish a debut novel at age 62?
- She kept an emotional journal from a young age to age 50. She was going on a big trip to Asia and taped a note on the boxes that said, “If the plane goes down, do not read. Burn these.” Then she decided to take them outdoors up North and burn them herself. She didn’t lose her stories, she opened them up and set them into the universe, freed herself to pull them back and rework them in a new way
- Now she does positive journaling, putting actual pen to paper, drawing and painting. If her plane goes down now, she has boxes of writing and journals that she does want to share
- Her first books as a kid were the Junior Classics Collier’s Encyclopedia set. She felt intimidated by reading, until her grade 2 teacher gave her a copy of Pippi Longstocking. After that she was obsessed with waiting for the Bookmobile to come and bring new stories
- How do you get started writing fiction at age 50? She joined a local writing group that has become her “tribe.” She reapplied to school for creative writing, and crashed the registration system because her student number was so outdated.
- Michael Redhill taught one of her courses. One day after class she told him she was afraid she’d waited too long to start writing. He replied, “It’s never too late to start writing. Some start too early, but it’s never too late.” Now she feels she’s not late to the writing party, she just was conducting 50 years of research before she got started.
- For any baby boomers considering starting to write fiction, it’s NOT too late. “You are the people with stories to tell. You’ve gathered stories through whatever your life experience has been.”
- How she deals with negative feedback. She has to fight the urge to explain and defend her story. But she’s trying to hear the criticism and improve for the sequel
- How she found her publisher, ECW Press: a mix of serendipity and luck. She didn’t set out to be a published author, she just wanted to write for fun
- What it means to her to be a Canadian author, and for The Clay Girl to be considered “CanLit”
- One of the most interesting part of the publishing process has been learning that readers are particular about HOW they want to read – eBooks, large-print, library, audio. Authors need to provide every format so that customers can keep discovering wonderful books in the form and location they want
- When she started writing fiction, she would wake up at 2am and “give the best hours of my day” to writing before she went to her day job
- You can make connections and have experiences no matter where you live and what you do. As long as you’re experiencing (and not just observing), you’re gathering stories to inform your writing
- “There’s enough despair already in the world. I want to leave behind a legacy of hope.”